Jonathan cook

2011-07-29 00:00

THE South Africa women’s hockey team showed guts and tenacity to craft a 1-0 half-time lead over world number one Holland in the second Test in the leafy town of Ede outside Amsterdam yesterday.

But the admirable Dutch’s eventual 5-1 victory was overshadowed by incompetence at the whistle and poor event management off the field.

The third bungling of the South African national anthem in the four times the teams have met in Holland in the past two months was well handled by the SA team, who carried on singing regardless of the cutting of three or four verses.

To his credit, Dutch head coach Max Caldas asked for the anthem to be replayed.

Yet another inexperienced Dutch umpire was left to feel her way in international waters with a maiden Test match in which she blew the whistle with only one eye opened and, it seemed, focused on only one team.

After their 5-0 win in Wednesday’s first Test, coach Caldas made a stunning move by starting without a goalkeeper, rather using superstar former South African forward Marilyn Agliotti as a field player in a bid to exploit the extra player advantage.

It worked early on as Holland threatened to suffocate South Africa with overwhelming pressure, but goalkeeper Mariette Rix kept the girls in green and gold in the game with several telling saves.

The team broke free in the eighth minute with Shelley Russell the instigator, before the ball passed from Kathleen Taylor to Jade Mayne and on to Sulette Damons for the SA striker to deliver the killer blow.

Caldas brought on goalkeeper Joyce Sombroek with immediate effect and the Dutch began to benefit from the 50-50 calls that just about always went their way.

SA defended their 1-0 lead with authority and calmness under pressure, while stealing away on several sniping attacks, but a long road lay ahead in the second half before a remarkable upset victory over the world’s top women’s team could be claimed.

Diabolical second-half umpiring decisions continued to plague the gutsy yet tired South Africans, who were playing their fifth Test match in six days. It didn’t help that the Dutch were also playing very good hockey, which stretched the South Africans’ defensive format beyond the limit.

Kim Lammers, Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel, Claire Verhage, Ellen Hoog and Kitty van Male were the final receivers in top-class attacking plays to seal a victory that left a sour taste.

The South Africans leave for Dublin at 5 am today and will face Scotland at 7 pm (SA time) tonight on the neutral territory of Ireland’s National Hockey Stadium. The second Test against the Scots is at 3 pm tomorrow and the third at 10 am on Sunday.

The South Africans will have played eight Test matches in nine days before they head home on a 24-hour journey via Amsterdam and Dubai next Monday.

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